My first job in tertiary Student Services was at an Institute of Technology in the industrial inner-west of Melbourne. The institution was, in all truth, more interesting than my job. But the team was diverse and lively, and it was here I first entertained the notion of becoming a counsellor. It would mean more study, but what the hell. Most of my life had been spent in one kind of educational institution or another.
It’s not me I want to tell you about here, though, it’s the Administrative Officer. Her name was Betty and she was a tidy, well-maintained woman in her late fifties with a sharp line in reprimand within her front desk domain and a mischievous sense of humour that would, in our enlightened times, be considered a little on the risqué side.
During my first winter term in the job, I staggered in one morning coughing and spluttering like an asthmatic tank engine.
“Oooh!” chirped Betty, “You sound like you need some Vicks rubbed on your chest.”
Vicks Vaporub, for those unfamiliar with the product, is a methylated unguent that, when applied by hand to the upper thorax, claims to relieve coughing.
Unable to muster any response other than a blush, I fled to my office.
Another time I was sitting chatting to Betty at the front desk. There were no customers present. I think one of the counsellors, who bore the same given name is your correspondent but was much more self-confident, was also hanging around. Maybe he wanted something typed. Betty was not that keen on typing; it required a degree of foreplay to seduce her into lifting the dust cover off her IBM electric golfball machine.
Through some circuitous process that may well have involved other-Bruce gently teasing the Admin Officer (a risk I was neither able nor willing to take), the subject of readiness for rumpy pumpy came up. This is why I think other-Bruce was complicit; his Mediterranean wife used to periodically send him saucy photocopies via the facsimile machine. (It was the mid-80s, OK?). Nothing really offensive, mind you; more cheeky than pornographic.
So the subject of being ready for lovemaking came up. As I say, I have no idea how this intimate topic arose as I was probably trying desperately to work our how to exit, stage left, rather than tracking the dialogue. Perhaps other-Bruce had received a visual billet-doux from his spouse. Anyway, this is what Betty said, and it stayed with me as a profound observation on sexuality in long-term relationships.
“Sometimes I’m in the mood,” she said,
“…and sometimes I can be got in the mood.”
I do not think she was talking about Glen Miller.
Yet music can help with this migration process from ‘not’ to ‘in’. Or at least that’s what countless songwriters believe.
There’s music so sensual it warms your cockles by a process of induction.
There’s music of such rhythmic raunchiness that, like a flame to touch-paper, something primal is lit.
There’s the music that somehow relaxes, allowing connection with our desire to connect.
But music actually about sex is often not an aphrodisiac. When sex is the topic of song it is more often reporting than inviting. Boasting rather than beguiling. Advertising rather than seducing.
Raunchy Business: Hot Nuts & Lollypops is a collection of early blues (mostly 1930s) unambiguously proving that Victorian prudishness did not reach across the Atlantic to suppress unbridled African-American music-making between the Wars. Although the recordings are primitive, the instrumentation basic and the photos black and white, the lyrics are ardently technicolour.
For reasons of propriety we’ll make do with song titles rather than the lyrics themselves. I think you’ll find the titles educational enough.
Bo Carter wants to position his “Banana in your fruit basket” while Lil Johnson tells us all about “Sam—The hot dog man” and his wares.
Barrel House Annie finds a mutually satisfying way to relieve her “Furniture man blues” while in a different style of professional confessional, Lonnie Johnson claims to be “The best jockey In town”.
In another encounter, Barrel House Annie provides clear guidelines. “If it don’t fit (don’t force it)” she advises, lest you make her mad. Little Mae Kirkman, on the other hand, has no dimensional problems. “He’s just my size” she declares.
But it is not all “Bed spring poker” (Mississippi Sheiks) and licking her “Lollypop” (Hunter and Jenkins). In as sad tale of loss of mojo, Bo Carter laments “My pencil won’t write no more”. Bo, we feel your anguish.
Most of the songs use allusion and double entendre to convey their sultry message. Not so Lucile Bogan in an utterly outrageous version of “Shave ‘em dry”. This second iteration is so unabashedly foul that Lucille collapses into hysterical laughter at one point. Even Betty might have blushed at this one, though on the hole she would probably have found Hot Nuts & Lollypops a bit of a giggle. After all, unlike Bernice Edwards who had the “Butcher shop blues”, I imagine Betty would have echoed the boast of Lil Johnson: “My stove’s in good condition”.
While fine with friskiness, I wonder what Betty would have made of this other taboo topic?